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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Troubled cop cleared in 2008 drunken driving crash

Troubled cop cleared in 2008 drunken driving crash
The Times Union by PAUL NELSON - February 17, 2010

SCHENECTADY, NY -- Fighting to keep his job amid criminal and internal charges, jailed city cop John Lewis won a legal victory today when a judge acquitted him of drunk driving charges.
City Court Judge Guido Loyola said there simply was not enough evidence to convict Lewis, 40, of driving while intoxicated charges related to his arrest the day after Christmas 2008. The judge also dismissed a traffic ticket for speeding. The judge did convict Lewis of traffic infractions for failure to drive on the proper side of the roadway and ordered him to pay a $160 fine. "It was the right decision and we're pleased," said Lewis' attorney, Michael Horan. "I think the judge focused on the essential elements of the crime, which was the testimony of the officers on the scene, whether they observed any indication that the defendant was intoxicated." Assistant District Attorney Michael Tiffany said, "We put the facts out there and the judge makes the determination. We felt there were sufficient facts to find him guilty." When asked about trial testimony that officers on the scene turned off a police car video camera and microphones, Tiffany said, "Why would somebody want to turn off their cameras and microphones and what conclusions can you draw from that?"

It's the second time Loyola has exonerated Lewis. In March 2008, Loyola, in another bench trial, cleared Lewis of harassment related to allegations he had fought with his ex-wife over custody of their young son. But his legal woes are far from over and top police officials have publicly said they want him fired. He is currently being held without bail in Schenectady County Jail after facing a second DWI charge in relation to a Jan. 23 accident in the Ellis Hospital parking lot. Lewis, who his attorney said has a drinking problem, also pleaded not guilty to a 10-count indictment accusing him of using a former girlfriend's computer to hack into his ex-wife's e-mail accounts. He has filed a notice of claim contending the city conspired with his ex-wife to get him fired. In December, Lewis suffered a stab wound in Massachusetts, allegedly at the hands of his girlfriend. He has not been on active duty with the Schenectady Police Department since March 2008 and is on unpaid suspension. During the two-day DWI trial, Assistant District Attorney Michael Tiffany argued that Lewis was out drinking all night on Dec. 26, 2008 and crashed his black SUV into a parked vehicle in the 1000 block of Eastern Avenue at around 4:30 a.m.Defense Attorney Michael Horan countered that prosecutors couldn't prove Lewis was drunk at the accident scene, noting he didn't take a Breathalyzer until four hours later. Meanwhile, an independent hearing officer who presided at an internal affairs disciplinary hearing will soon issue a decision that could result in his termination. In the past two years, Lewis has been arrested a half-dozen times on domestic violence and drunken driving charges. He also is facing charges stemming from a fight with his brother, also a police officer. Lewis' trouble with the department date back to 1998, when an arbitrator reversed his firing over his use of a racial slur at the police station. Paul Nelson can be reached at 454-5347 or by e-mail at

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